Burial Rites

I’m no Antigone. I possess none of her qualities.

She is royalty.

She unearths embattled

soil, sprinkles eternity.

Disgraced, her brother Polyneices lies bare,

bracing against the ravages of carrion birds.

In her haste, she forgets one thing—ritualized

libations. The liqueur—choai.  Think ouzo for the ancients.

How do we cover our war dead?

A quick zip of vinyl, black

cloth, a makeshift shroud

with no imprint, no face. 

A veil unfurls

over Kabul, Kandahar, the Korengal Valley.

Jimmy’s body, what remains of it anyway,

is scattered, blown to smithereens.

I return to Smithfield township and its peat beds, wade

knee-deep in his wellingtons,

dig earthworms, parched cornstalks, scattered seed corn.

I prepare the burial.

My brother Jimmy never understood the Greeks,

the endless drama, the tragedy.

I uncork my uncle’s moonshine, pour myself

a jigger of Jim Beam, and for Jimmy, a double—neat

Wild Turkey.

How I savor the taste of anise.

Now I’m ready for sleep.

Originally published in Nimrod International Journal, vol. 56, no. 1 (Fall/Winter 2012)